The Forward reports that Trump education secretary, Betsy DeVos will nominate “civil rights” lawyer, Kenneth Marcus, as assistant secretary of education for civil rights. Oh the many delicious ironies! Just as his EPA director seeks to destroy the environment and his secretary of the interior seeks to dismantle the national park system, so DeVos is appointing someone antithetical to civil rights to the role of protecting the rights of America’s students.
Marcus does defend the civil rights of one group, Jews. But not all Jews, only some Jews. Specifically, pro-Israel Jews. Thus in his new role he will be the nation’s anti-Semitism czar. As I wrote last year in Alternet, Marcus pioneered a particular form of pro-Israel lawfare which argues that pro-Israel Jews have special rights. That is, that support for Israel is a civil right and that anyone on campus who questions or attacks Israel is essentially engaged in what he calls, “anti-Israelism.” There is no such concept either in law or even in political discourse. Marcus has desperately used every stratagem in the pro-Israel book advancing a theory no one buys.
He filed civil rights complaints with the DOE against multiple universities (among them UC Santa Cruz, Rutgers, Barnard, UC Riverside, UC Berkeley and Columbia University) arguing that a hostile climate exists on campus for Jews because of a discourse which attacks Israel. What’s his record? Zero. Every complaint has been dismissed. So what better figure to nominate for a senior job in the Trump administration than a person who’s failed at everything he’s tried. Put him in charge of the very agency before which he flopped so many times before.
What does Marcus’ appointment mean? That every university in this country must police campus activities and speech to ensure criticism of Israel is muted, if not eliminated. For those foolish schools which defy Marcus, they will face the prospect he will deny them critical federal funding for research and programs. If you are a professor critical of Israel or, God forbid, one who supports BDS, Ken Marcus will have your number. He will be watching you. You can forget academic freedom. Marcus doesn’t believe in it as traditionally defined. He believes in policing speech and acts that harm Israel. But not “Israel” as any reasonable person would define it. His version of Israel is a Jewish supremacist state in which Palestinians are either subjugated or eliminated.
In the past, Marcus has called various professors he’s identified as especially hostile to Israel and asked to interview them about their views on the Israel-Palestine conflict. He attempts to persuade them of his bona fides by claiming he’s already interviewed Noam Chomsky and Judith Butler. If you hold views that parallel theirs you can expect a flood of such future calls emanating from DOE.
Marcus was instrumental in devising the “definition” of anti-Semitism used by the University of California Board of Regents in their attempt to come up with a campus code of civil discourse. Naturally, his proposed definition cast criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic and impermissible. Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s husband, Richard Blum, was a strident advocate of Marcus’ proposal, though eventually a watered down version was approved. You can now expect a national campaign pressuring university campuses to adopt such codes.
Lest you have any doubt about Marcus’ views of Islam, he’s the bright bulb who spread the fake news that an Arab Michigan university student had stabbed a pineapple and uploaded the image to social media to declare his unremitting hatred of Israel AND his denial of the Holocaust. How did he explain his interpretation? The caption for the image said: “It’s on!” Turns out, the student was jocularly goading an opponent of his intramural basketball team.
Marcus’ previous efforts at the ill-named Brandeis Justice Center, have been funded by known Islamophobes David Horowitz and David Pipes. He also received funding from the Koch Brothers Donor Capital Fund. In other words, he’ll be right at home in the Trump White House.
Israel’s Secret Legal Campaign to Criminalize BDS in the U.S.
Haaretz reported a few days ago that Gilad Erdan, minister of strategic affairs tasked with pursuing the government’s worldwide campaign against BDS and “delegitimization,” has spent $1.5-million hiring several U.S. law firms to prepare briefs to support anti-BDS efforts. Among them, the reporter says will be likely lawsuits brought by the main firm, Sidley Austin, against U.S. NGOs and individuals who support BDS.
There are now 20 states with laws endorsing state boycotts of companies which honor the BDS campaign. These laws prohibit any company doing business with the state from endorsing the international human rights effort. Erdan’s efforts no doubt are meant to reinforce this legal project by passing such laws in all states. Once that is accomplished and they feel they’ve achieved a national consensus attacking BDS, I imagine the lawsuits will follow.
Since I am not an attorney, I can’t envision exactly what role Sidley Austin will play. I don’t know if it will sue groups like Jewish Voice for Peace or the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights, which formally endorse BDS. Or perhaps they will recruit plaintiffs to do so and then recruit other attorneys to take on the cases. Whatever the plan, Israel is inserting itself into domestic U.S. politics in a way that is antithetical to traditional U.S. values. Sidley Austin should be forced to register as an agent of a foreign power.